Grants In Action

Thanks to those who help make TFAE Grants possible!

Students Learn About Career Opportunities

Through their REALTORS® Cares outreach program, the Bayou Board of REALTORS® provided two $400 grants to fund supplies for business and career classes.

The 2018-2019 Bayou Board of REALTORS® Journey to Careers Grants, administered by TFAE, were awarded to Dawn Lirette of Montegut Middle School and Chasity Paul of Oaklawn Junior High School. Both teachers used the funds to purchase supplies to complete career-centered projects in their Journey to Careers classes, where students learn about different career opportunities and paths.

In Ms. Paul's class, students used supplies purchased to create a Habitat for Humanity project. Through this activity,  they learned about non-profit organizations and how it can impact a family, their well-being, and the community as a whole.

Students also learned about architecture and construction as possible career paths as they worked to construct their “homes.” By creating floor plans and models of homes, they learned about measurement and what exactly is involved in building of homes. Students also learned that planning is an important part of the building process.

“The most successful part of this project was seeing how fully engaged students were involved in this project and being confident in their abilities by building a single family dwelling that was nice with a few frills,” Chasity said.

Bayou Board of REALTORS® announced that they will sponsor three Journey to Careers grants in the 2019-2020 school year and will open applications to all business and career related courses offered in Terrebonne Parish public schools. For more information on these grants or to apply, click here. 

Experiencing Cultures One Bite At A Time

Students from Montegut Elementary experience native food, culture, and traditions of places across the globe – without ever leaving the bayou.

Fourth grade teacher Alexandria Bates first thought of unique ways to explore other countries in her classroom by remembering a tradition in her own home.

“When my daughters were growing up, they were into trying out things like Pocky Sticks from India and green tea kits from Japan, so I ended up buying a small sample subscription,” Alexandra said. “It got me thinking as to how our students’ curiosity of other parts of the world could best be used to teach them geography and culture by exposing them to different ‘favorites’ from around the world.”

With funding from an Innovative Ed-Venture Grant, sponsored by South Louisiana Bank and administered by Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE), Alexandria enlisted the help of fellow teacher Patty Roddy to create the “We Are the World News Club.”

By subscribing to Universal Yums, a delivery service that includes food from a specific country, the students receive a box each month with food that ranges from chips, different types of candies, cakes, chocolate, dried fruits, and other items that have a good shelf life.

All third and fourth grade students are invited to participate, with 99% signing up to do so. Every month, the students receive a clue to the country featured in their next box. They work together to research and find clues to reveal their next adventure. Once they know their next country of study, students then research its government, geography, laws, toys, customs, food, music, migration patterns, and more using Chromebooks. Students label the country on their large wall map and discuss their findings.

The next day is where the real fun begins! Students meet in the science lab to share their knowledge, read from the books included in their country’s box, and try the food. Their reactions can range from delight to disgust, depending on the bite. Countries “visited” so far include Germany, Italy, Ukraine, and Israel.

The one rule of the club is that if you come to a meeting, you have to taste everything. A few of their most memorable taste tests are below according to a survey of the students:
  • Favorite Country: Germany. It was filled with variety of chips, cookies and chocolate.
  • Best Treat: From Germany, a Peanut Curlz, which looks like a cheeto but tastes like a peanut butter sandwich
  • Worst Treat: From Ukraine, round onion petal that tasted like raw onions.
  • Most Interesting Treat: From Italy, a chocolate pizza with mix of dark and milk chocolate covered in rosemary, thyme, dried blueberry, rose petals

“Out of all the boxes, the Ukraine box will always hold a special place in our hearts,” Alexandria said. “It was a treasure trove of treats that gagged our palate. There was the dog-food smelling veal and onion flavored sticks….It stayed with you forever and as a matter of fact, I can still taste it if I think too hard about it!”

Students are filmed during their presentations on the countries and their taste testing using a Go-Pro camera. The short film is broadcasted to their entire school during their morning wait time or during rainy day recess as a news report.

“Educationally, the most successful part of the club is being able to learn about other cultures and make connections of those cultures to our own,” Alexandria said. “We teach them this in the classroom but making it real for them through this club has created a learning environment that cannot be created in a classroom setting.”

There are many other benefits as well, Alexandria said.

“The added bonus, which amazes and astounds me, is the fearlessness that the students have revealed in tasting everything – and I mean everything – that is placed on their place, even halva (a sweet confection),” she said. “Trust me, you don’t want to try halva.”

Girls Who Code Summer Session 

In June, TFAE hosted the Girls Who Code Summer Session presented by Chevron, a one-week technology camp for 25 girls in Terrebonne Parish.

The girls learned how to code, create closed circuits, work together, and to be "brave not perfect."

Many thanks to Chevron, T Baker Smith, and Danos for sponsoring this wonderful experience for our Girls Who Code. Also special thanks to T Baker Smith for creating this video for us!

To learn more about the Girls Who Code Summer Session, click here. 

Local Girls Who Code Club Aims to Close
Gender Gap in STEM Career Field

“Girl Power” is taking on a whole new meaning as local junior high school girls are working together to close the gender gap in the male-dominated science and technology career fields.

The Girls Who Code club at Houma Junior High School has kicked into full gear thanks to teacher Melissa Williamson. Williamson acquired the technology and supplies needed for her club from an Innovative Ed-Venture Grant administered by the Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE) and sponsored by Chevron. Girls Who Code is a national organization focused on helping girls learn the skills necessary to break into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers.

“My hope is that the girls all enable each other to work hard and tackle difficult academic environments in a team atmosphere,” Williamson said. “When they support each other, difficult tasks become less difficult. I want them to be brave, not perfect.”

“Brave, not perfect” is a common theme of the lessons in which the girls work together to learn how to code, a term used in the technology field that means to develop apps, websites and software. The lessons encourage them to be brave enough to try, ask questions and work through problems to get a solution – skills that will serve them well in their future professions.

“Young girls are greatly influenced by the environment and encouragement around them,” said Chevron Public Affairs Manager Leah Brown. “By introducing them to STEM education early on and investing time in their education through mentorship, we can make a positive impact on their futures. Chevron is proud to support this program in Terrebonne Parish.”

The club meets on a weekly basis to learn the fundamentals of coding and programming language. In the future, Williamson hopes the girls could serve as their schools’ “tech experts” and help with technical issues at the schools to get real-world practice.

As an engineer turned teacher, Williamson knows the challenges of women working in a male-dominated field. Using her experiences, as well as calling upon other women in STEM, she hopes to show the girls that nothing is out of their reach.

“I want them to have a burning desire to create something new,” Williamson said. “Junior high is a time for girls to really start creating the adult they want to become.  I want them to add characteristics like intelligent, fierce, determined, innovative and limitless to this list.”

Elementary Students Gets Moving!

Physical Education (P.E.) Classes just got a lot more fun at Legion Park Elementary School, Gibson Elementary School, and Bayou Black Elementary School!

With the help of TFAE New Teacher Grants, sponsored by Anytime Fitness (East Houma/Raceland locations), students at these three schools can now enjoy new equipment to help them get active and learn about healthy lifestyles.

Ashlee Beaudry, P.E. Teacher at Legion Elementary, was able to purchase a variety of balls, hula-hoops, jump ropes, exercise resistance bands, and a parachute. With the new equipment, Ashlee said she can implement a variety of activities that were not available before, as well as engage more students at one time.

Pamela Labat splits her time as the P.E. Teacher at both Gibson Elementary and Bayou Black Elementary. With her grant, she was able to purchase supplies to keep at both locations rather than hauling equipment back and forth. Equipment purchased included bowling pins, balls, jump ropes, and items to safely store equipment.

“I would like to personally thank TFAE and Anytime Fitness for funding these grants,” Ashlee said. “It has allowed me to get my students actively involved in physical education.”

Students Experience Shakespeare in Living Color

For thousands of years, audiences have filled theaters waiting for an experience that, if only for a moment, would transport them to another world.

Nearly 300 South Terrebonne High School English students were able to understand that feeling this past Wednesday as they visited the Shakespeare Festival at Tulane University to experience MacBeth.

“It’s important for us to expose our students to the live experience of Shakespeare’s works,” Katy Ledet, STHS English teacher, said. “Though we study his plays in class, it is imperative for students to understand that these plays were written to be heard and seen rather than read.”

The trip was funded by Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE) through an Innovative Ed-Venture Grant, sponsored by Apache Corporation and Tony and Char Herques. Ledet submitted a grant proposal for the trip during TFAE’s annual grant process.

“We felt this project was a wonderful opportunity to challenge students to see beyond the words on paper and become immersed in the arts,” Katie Portier, TFAE Executive Director, said. “It was also an opportunity for students to visit a college campus and become inspired and intrigued by the excitement of a live theatre performance.”

Ledet said this experience was all about exposure for the students. While even if they did not completely understand the language used in Shakespeare’s play, they were able to experience how other factors are important in a live theatre.

“There is something special about feeling the emotion of actors as they become the characters in these legendary plays,” Ledet said. “Hearing the tone, seeing the sets and costumes, and feeling the excitement of the theatre is a unique experience that all young adults should experience. For many of our students, this is the only opportunity they will get for that experience.”

Back in the classroom, Ledet’s English II students started reading MacBeth the day after their trip. For the first time, Ledet said her students were truly excited to study Shakespeare’s works, having started to relate the scenes they were reading to the scenes they saw live.

“This experience went beyond my expectations,” Ledet said. “I was so proud to have our school represented at this performance and was impressed with how much our students took back from the play.  They truly were appreciative and excited about the experience.”

Students Use Robots to Learn Engineering Skills

The future is here! Robots are roaming the halls of our schools – but not to worry, it’s just for Robotics Club where students are learning how to build and program robots made of LEGO blocks.

One local school setting the stage for this innovative program is Coteau Bayou Blue Elementary School.

Under the direction of Gifted and Talented teacher Glenn Sikes, students are learning how to code, build robotic components, and solve real-world problems using the engineering process.

“Students are easily motivated to work with robotics,” Glenn said. “Students feel like they are playing, but in reality, are learning skills that will extend far into the future. Coding and robotics will play a large role in their future.”

Glenn received a grant sponsored by Chevron and administered by the Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE) for two sets of LEGO robotics to supplement his Robotics Club at Coteau Bayou Blue. With these resources, Glenn was able to create two Robotics Teams – the Space Wolves and the Wolf Invaders - due to a large interest from students. The teams meet twice a week for two hours, where students divide and work in three main groups: programmers, builders, and researchers.

“Our grant from TFAE and Chevron greatly helped us to include the second team,” Glenn said. “We would have had a struggle to share equipment and having that grant made the two teams workable. We appreciate the generous gift, which has made a huge difference to my students who had a chance to participate.”

Recently, Robotics Clubs from around the parish gathered to participate in a Robotics Showcase, where they competed in multiple challenges with their robots. Coteau Bayou Blue Elementary took home two honors at the competition. The Space Wolves placed second in robot design and second in the robot game, while the Wolf Invaders placed first in the core values challenge.

“My students enjoyed interacting with the other teams and seeing how they solved some of the same challenges in a different way,” Glenn said.

While preparing for the next showcase, Glenn said his students will continue to build strong teams and work together to solve problems, think outside the box, be creative, and learn to do hard things all while having fun with robots.

The LEGO Robotics Project for Coteau Bayou Blue Elementary was one of two TFAE Innovative Ed-Venture grants sponsored by Chevron for the 2018-2019 school year.

“We are so thankful to Chevron for being a partner of TFAE to enhance the access of science, technology, engineering, and math resources to our local students,” Katie Portier, TFAE Executive Director, said. “It is through these partnerships that teachers can continue to be creative and innovative in how they inspire and motivate their students.”

TFAE is an independent local non-profit organization that strives to positively affect academic achievement and to fundamentally improve education. TFAE has awarded more than $1 million grant dollars to Terrebonne Parish public school teachers since 2002.  

Scholarly Stations: Learning While Playing

“Mrs. Dupre, come see the words I made!” a little voice exclaimed. Eager and excited, the kindergartener read aloud five words she created on her own. It was hard to tell who was more proud in that moment – the student or the teacher!

Through a TFAE Innovative Ed-Venture Grant, Bourg Elementary Kindergarten Teacher Crystal Dupre has added multiple Scholarly Stations to her classroom, where students can visit distinct learning areas for to practice play-based learning.

“Kindergarteners love to play! It’s natural and a part of their childhood development,” Crystal said. “They learn through play, and this makes play-based learning very important.”

The stations are equipped with resources, technology, games, and supplies that students can use to play, all while learning and reinforcing lessons learned in the classroom. For example, in the ELA station there are classic children’s books that help develop skills in rhyming and word building. In the math station, there are shapes, games, and activities that help students practice and develop skills in recognizing shapes, patterning, counting, measuring, comparing numbers, and more.

Crystal said she believes that incorporating play-based learning will only strengthen the kindergarten curriculum.

“Children like taking the initiative in their learning,” Crystal said. “As they discover new things and apply what they have learned in stations, they feel successful and motivated to continue to learn.”

This classroom’s Scholarly Stations will focus on technology, math, reading, spelling, science, and social living. In addition to these important subjects, play-based learning can also help set the foundation for real-life skills such as how to help each other, how to choose kind words, and how to encourage on another. They can also learn how to choose to be good citizens of the future.

“I want to see my students actively engaged and learning every day,” Crystal said. “Most of all, I want to see them happy and enjoying the learning process in my classroom.”

TFAE donated more than $52,000 to Terrebonne Parish public school teachers in the 2018-2019 school year and more than $1 million dollars since its inception. Grants are made possible through direct donations and donations to TFAE's endowment.

The Scholarly Stations project was made possible by a donation from the Jim and Glenda Harper Fund.

2018-2019 TFAE Grant Award Recipients Announced

Full grant list

Fourth Grade is Ready to Read!

Fourth grade teacher Stephanie Autin saw a need to find a new way to help her students increase their literacy skills, and in turn, become better prepared for the English Language Arts portion of the LEAP test.

With the help of a grant from Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE), Stephanie purchased Ready Reading workbooks for her English students at Acadian Elementary School.

“The workbook is a full color book with so many interesting articles and stories that keeps my students engaged while learning,” Stephanie said. “The workbooks help ensure my students are prepared for testing and for the fifth grade.”

Students utilized the workbook for practice in class, homework, and as a review. Stephanie said the workbooks were a great tool for all of her students to use.

“My classroom population is very diverse,” Stephanie said. “My students come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, learning styles, and accommodations. These workbooks give all my students much needed practice in the skills needed to master the fourth grade content.”

A Celebration of Academic Excellence

Meet our 2017-2018 TFAE Celebrates Excellence Inspirational Educators and Distinguished Scholars.

Distinguished Scholars: Erin Rogers, Tammy Johnson, Lauren Louviere, Breanna Parfait, Lane Robichaux, Victoria Pellegrin, Ethan Kelley, Dylan Fitch, Jennifer Barrios, Caleb Boudreaux, Joshua Fontenot

Inspirational Educators:
Norma Donaldson, Rhonda Rogers, Claudette Kelleher, Melea Exchete, Michelle White, Jeremy Boudreaux, Ann Labat, Nikki Thibodeaux, Chris Brown, Vaughn Luquette, Julie Bernard
Special thanks to Hancock Whitney, Rushing Media, and TGMC Community Sports Institute for sponsoring our TFAE Celebrates Excellence event where we honored these students and educators.  

Resources Help Kindergarteners Soar

With a New Teacher Grant from Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE), Lisa Park Kindergarten Teacher Lani Detiveaux was able to purchase supplies to enhance the centers in her classroom. Lani purchased new manipulatives and games that students will use to learn the foundational skills of reading and math.

Lani said her students will benefit from additional resources in the classroom that usually take time to accumulate as a new teacher. By being awarded a New Teacher Grant, Lani was able to purchase all the items needed for her centers.

“They love learning through play and this grant allowed me to purchase educational resources that help them to explore through hands on learning activities,” Lani said. “I am so thankful to TFAE for this grant opportunity.”

In the 2017-2018 school year, TFAE awarded 21 New Teacher Grants.

To apply for any TFAE Grants for 2018-2019 school year, please visit

Pre-K Gets a Great iStart

At the start of the school year, Coteau Bayou Blue’s prekindergarten teachers saw their classrooms lacking technology and new materials for literacy and math. Teachers Effie Schilling, Wyatt Leonard, Brooke Allemand, and Heidi Theriot worked together to form a plan to enhance their students’ skills in these areas.

Through a grant from Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE), Coteau Bayou Blue was able to launch the Hatch iStart Smart Programs for Early Childhood Classrooms. This project included the purchase of eight iPads, a one-year subscription to the Hatch Shell Square Learning Games, and fun and stimulating learning materials.

“They are unaware that while they are playing, they are really sharpening their literacy and math skills,” Effie Schilling said. “The amount of growth is amazing.”

Before being awarded this grant, their students were performing at or below the level of their peers. By incorporating the iStartSmart program, the students have begun progressing at a rapid rate. At the end of the year, several students are performing at or above Kindergarten level.

“Since being awarded this grant, the children look forward to their time on the iPads and for small group and center time when they can use the various material.” Effie said. “They cannot wait to see what new activity awaits them.”

Solving Problems at the Math Cafe

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Sitting around the tall table in the back of the classroom, students are hunched over a worksheet deep in conversation. They move around the table as they brainstorm until they uncover the solution to the problem in front of them. Smiles and high fives reach across the table. Together, they just solved a difficult math problem.

The Math Café has become a popular destination among the halls of Houma Junior High. The idea for the café came to eighth grade math teacher Melissa Williamson due to her own three sons.

“I have raised three sons who drove some of their teachers a bit crazy with the need to move and their inability to sit still for so long,” Melissa said. “The popularity of standing desks inspired me to create a standing table to allow movement and encourage team work.”

Through a grant from Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE), Melissa purchased the supplies needed to build the standing table. The students worked together using math and engineering skills to create blueprints for the table and help put the table together.

As an engineer for 14 years, Melissa said the most important lesson her students learned through building the math café was that math and engineering are never done solo in real life.

“Groups work together at all times,” Melissa said. “I want my classroom to feel like a real work space. In all fields, professionals are encouraged to interact with each other and share ideas. The classroom should prepare them using that same setting.”

The Math Café has become a space for students of all levels to interact – from honors and gifted classes to special education and inclusion classes.

“Discipline problems are almost non-existent for students at the café,” Melissa said. “Students smile, interact, and engage when they are able to share ideas in a group setting.”

Through the use of the Math Café, Melissa has been able to “adopt” several non-honor students into her honors class to see if movement and flexible seating would help them, which it has. All of those students are taking honors math tests now and doing very well.

“The Math Café sharpens students’ social skills and their math skills.” Melissa said. “It’s a win-win!”